By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – In what’s been dubbed the “Melon Man Challenge,” Ross Chastain made his presence known in his first points paying NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race of the season, bringing home a 10th place finish Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
“The fastest truck didn’t win tonight. We had it,” said Chastain. “It might not have showed it lap leading wise, but we had the best truck. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to capitalize. That’s all we need to do is bring fast trucks every week and it’ll take care of itself.”
Despite a 15th place starting position, Chastain quickly made up ground in his Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, climbing to fourth-place by the end of Stage 1 and showing off his driving talent with a thrilling four-wide pass into Turn 3 at the end of Stage 2 to take seventh place.
Moving into the runner-up spot on the leaderboard later in the race, Chastain was setting himself up to make a run at the victory if things fell his way in the closing stages of the event, putting up some of the fastest laps on track before making his final pit stop under green.
With 20 laps to go, Chastain ran in 14th place, but found himself a lap down to the leaders when the final caution flag of the night flew at lap 155 before the cycle of green flag pit stops had run its course.
Not being in the free pass position at that point, Chastain was able to climb up to 10th place and cemented himself as the first car a lap down, but never got the caution flag he needed to get back on the lead lap and challenge for the race win in the closing laps.
Despite the disappointment that came with how the race played out, Chastain noted he is still having fun driving for the team and they are going to give it their best shot to win a race and crack the top-20 i points before the start of the Playoffs.
“If we keep bringing the trucks like we’ve been bringing all year, we’re going to win races,” Chastain said. “If nothing else, we’re going to have a lot of fun doing this. It’s so much fun to come and be competitive. It’s a dream come true. With what I’ve experienced the last year and, in my career, I don’t take any of this for granted.
“Even if this whole “Melon Man Challenge” doesn’t work out, it still was the right move and we’re going to have a lot of fun along the way.”
Following Friday night’s race at Texas, Chastain is scheduled to run in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan before turning his attention to the next race on the Truck Series schedule, next Saturday night’s running of the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.